When we moved back to the East Coast from sunny Southern California in 2012, our main focus was to get the kids into the best schools possible. While we love the Aiken County schools where our church is located, we were unable to find a rental home that fit us. The best house for our budget and size family was in Columbia County, GA, my home county. So, we settled there, knowing the schools would be good for our kids. Stevens Creek then became home for Ella. Little did we know this community would become family of which we would be a part.
We have loved every teacher Ella has had at Stevens Creek Elementary. Each one of them have been so understanding of her outwardly shy personality. They have been more than teachers, loving her and pouring into her each and every year. We were very worried about a 4th grade assignment in which she had to dress-up and perform as a historic figure as people came by to hear her present all of her research. Her teacher, Mrs. Friel, helped her feel more comfortable and placed her booth right by the classroom in case she needed to slip in to escape the crowds. Ella did great! But, it's just one more example of how her teachers and leaders always looked out for her.
This year, she got the teachers we had been hoping for, Mrs Marriott and Mrs Glass. When Ella was in the hospital, her teachers came to see her and cry with us. Mrs Glass sat in the waiting room everyday, sometimes bringing food for us, other times just being there if we needed her. So much of the staff and faculty have visited, texted, and sent gifts to us, including Ava's teacher, Mrs Sturgell, and the Principal, Mrs. Paschal. In fact, every teacher Ella has had at STCE attended the family visitation and have reached out to us. At the funeral, several of her teachers and classmates sat together during the service. They were there for us until the end, and beyond. Soon after her passing, her classmates got together and made green hearts and signs to honor her. We sent #forElla green bracelets for all of the 5th graders, and many of them wear them everyday to school.
Stevens Creek Elementary holds a Fun Run every year in October. In fact, Ella and two of her best friends, Rylee and Logan, won 1st Place in the Relay Race last year. After her funeral, we received an invitation from the school to attend this year's Fun Run. We were amazed at the love that was on display and were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. They placed our family at the starting line and then brought out all of the 5th graders to stand behind us. Each student came out of the school holding a green, heart-shaped balloon as we were each given one, as well. They honored our girl with a balloon-release as they said "Ella, we miss you. We love you. And we hope you enjoy playing with these balloons." It was one of the sweetest moments we could have imagined with her classmates and teachers. For kids, school becomes their world. And, Ella's world was a close-knit community of friends that continue to honor her.
As a part of honoring Ella, Stevens Creek Elementary had her most recent school picture framed in a large green frame with a beautiful bow. The school PTO presented us with a gift, as well, and we are still in awe of their generosity. We were able to bring our parents and a family friend, and we are so grateful to have shared this amazing moment with them. We love Stevens Creek Elementary and they love us. We are proud that Ava will be there for several more years, so we will continue to be an active part of the STCE family. To the STCE family, thank you for loving Ella. You do more than educate children. You pour into the lives of our babies and you help to shape who they become. Always remember that you have the power to change lives. You changed Ella's and you have changed ours. This picture will forever have a special place in our home, and this school will forever have a special place in our hearts.